A tale of two rioters

August 30, 2011 10:21 am

belfastriot.jpgBy Steve Hilditch

Picture the scene. Two 15 year olds caught up in the riots. Both enter a building and steal something, no violence involved but it’s clearly burglary. Both are caught by CCTV, arrested, charged, and brought before the Courts. Both are sentenced to 6 months in jail. The justice system has worked.

But there is one difference between the two children. One lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they bought 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before. The other lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they got from the council 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before.

What does justice have to say about this? Both have been dealt with, punished seriously for their crime. Both will have the blight of a criminal conviction and prison sentence hanging over them for years to come. But it’s fair treatment.

The first boy, when released, will return to his family in their family home and try to take up his life. There is some security and stability as he rebuilds. It’s hard but possible.

The second boy, when released, finds that his family has been evicted by the council from the family home because of his crime. They were declared intentionally homeless, so they won’t be rehoused. They have taken two private rented rooms in a shared house at a cost of nearly twice the council rent they were paying. Dad thinks he can’t afford to keep working. The youngest child is bedwetting, a result of the trauma of eviction say the medics. Mum is suffering from depression and is struggling to keep her job. They are not able to take the oldest boy in. He drifts off to stay on someone’s sofa. There is no security and stability from which to build. It’s very hard and it feels almost impossible.

What does justice have to say about this? None of this is fanciful; anyone involved in housing knows that this story reflects the reality.

There is no doubt that the mood is about retribution. Polls show that more people want tenants evicted than don’t. But neighbours who are home owners or private tenants probably don’t want anyone convicted of a serious crime living next to them either. And the determination of some councils to evict, and the government’s determination to make it easier for them, will not apply more generally to your common or garden murderer or rapist or burglar.

It may allow politicians to sound tough. It may be what people want. But it isn’t justice. It’s double punishment, it’s guilt by association, it’s discrimination on the grounds of tenure, pure and simple.

Labour, nationally and locally, should have nothing to do with it.

Steve blogs at Red Brick

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Miliband to outline Labour’s home-building plan tomorrow

    Miliband to outline Labour’s home-building plan tomorrow

    Tomorrow, Ed Miliband will outline Labour’s plan for house building and creating a fairer renting market. At a People’s Question Time in Hove, the Labour leader will explain how the current government has failed the millions of people who want to own a home but are unable to because of the ongoing housing crisis. Labour’s plan for housing includes ensuring that 200,000 more homes are built every year by 2020, giving local communities more robust powers to build the homes and […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Labour MP says party shouldn’t rule out a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories

    Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, has said that Labour shouldn’t rule out forming a ‘grand coalition’ with the Tories after the next election if neither party win a majority. Stuart told the Financial Times (£): “If on May 8 you had a position where Labour had more seats than the Tories but not enough to form a government — but the Tories had more votes than Labour — I think you should not dismiss the possibility of a grand coalition […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    Zero Discrimination Day: why LBGT rights matter worldwide

    When Ed Miliband appointed me his LGBTI global envoy he displayed once again his grasp of the wrongs that exist in the world and our need to be part of the resolution of these defining issue. His lead was followed this month when President Obama appointed Randy Berry as State Department LGBT envoy. And this is extremely important because when oppression and discrimination are on the increase that is precisely when we need to give our voice to the voiceless. […]

    Read more →
  • News One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win in May, figures show

    One million more families will have to pay the Bedroom Tax if the Tories win the election in May, according to figures examined by the Labour party. These figures show that 220,000 more families would have to pay the tax each year of the five yearlong Tory government. As it stands, of those paying the tax – which on average amounts to £14 more a week in rent for an extra bedroom and £25 for two or more – one […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    Two-thirds are in favour of Labour’s tuition fee pledge, poll finds

    YouGov polling on behalf of The Times Red Box, has found that two-thirds of people are in favour of Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year. As we reported on Friday, Labour announced they would cut tuition fees and increase the maintenance grant by £400. They would fund this by reducing tax reliefs given to the country’s wealthiest pensioners. This policy would come in to force for those entering universities in September 2016. YouGov have […]

    Read more →
lablist-logo mark-ferguson maya conor coffee-cup
Everything Labour. Every Weekday Morning
×